By Dan Kiazyk
Yet another day of temperatures in the 90’s, the sun shining brightly, seemingly making any outing for walleye a futile enterprise. Who fishes for walleye in southern Manitoba when its’ that hot and sunny anyway? Well, little did I know but by the end of that day, I would have to rewrite my own book on walleye behaviour. Walleye aren’t supposed to like the bright light and are said to be on the prowl predominantly during the witching hours (morning and evening). Well as the saying goes there’s exceptions to every rule!
I hadn’t spoken with Bob for sometime and I had missed an invitation to go fishing with him the week before. When I finally got him on the phone. he immediately (and fortunately for me) extended an invitation to fish one of his favorite lakes. He had spoken of this lake in the past saying that it was at its best when the sun shone and the days were good and warm. My first response to this claim was incredulity but Bob is a pretty straight shooting guy not prone to too much exaggeration. Besides I’ve done the same with my own clients (telling them something that seemed nearly unbelievable) only to surprise them with something that was contrary to their way of thinking.
On our drive up to the lake that afternoon we were going through our normal pre-fish briefing (that’s an awfully sophisticated way of saying we were just shooting the breeze), when Bob recounted a recent successful trip to the lake. Now its’ important to note that Bob’s a true sportsman who wants others have a better appreciation of the environment. One of his personal projects is to take young people fishing, giving them a chance to catch on to fishing. It also fits that he often takes these children to his favorite “summer weather” lakes. As he puts it, there ‘s plenty of action there, really good for kids! His trip to this lake had been as it had always had been: Successful when the sun shone high and bright in the August sky. With only a few minutes to go until we would arrive at the lake, I found myself like one of those kids Bob was describing, excited by the prospect that lie ahead.
The lake itself is a bit of anomaly for the area . It’s not unusual in its size as it is not the biggest local lake nor is it the smallest. The lake has shallow weed beds and has large beds of pencil reed. Some of the lake’s shoreline is rocky but these larger filed sized stones are far from being predominant. The only particular and perhaps unique aspect of this lake is its water colour. The lake has a light colored clay suspended in it. Lakes not even a mile away are considerably different in water clarity and colour. This particular lake is situated in a soil zone with a light clay . This particular clay suspends creating a turbidity in its waters unlike any other lake in the area.
Arriving at the lake, I was only too glad to help put in the boat. The hot humid August days called for some wading and the cool lake water was just to order. The lake was cooler than many others I had recently visited and by just having experienced its coolness (probably because its light clay colour was reflecting a large amount of solar radiation) I was beginning to formulate an hypothesis as to why fish were active in this lake an not others.
Our first stop focused on channel between a reed bed and the main land. Apparently there is a hole on the lake side of the channel and it requires that you pass over it with some frequency. As promised this first location did produce. Numerous chunky walleye and the odd pike bit with voracity at our bait….small frogs that we had caught before in a pasture near to Bob’s house. The lake itself is surrounded for the most part by similar pasture and probably similar frogs. I have subsequently returned to this spot to try other baits but none have produced as well as smaller frogs. I suspect that the turbid water allowed this lake’s walleye to move in closer (with little fear of predation on themselves) to shore to feed than they normally would on any other lake in the area.
Locale and bait and coolness of water were not all that factored into the success we had on that hot humid day. Tackle and boat control seemed to be at least as important as the prior set of considerations. With the water so turbid putting a hook and bait down in front of fish is a challenge. A super slow troll, (Bob back trolls to slow himself even more) and spinners tied on a very short snell were the tools that worked – undoubtedly other tactics work as other folks “still fish” and jig in another part of this same lake (earlier on in the calendar year) and have considerable success. The total package at this time of year seems to involve working spinners slowly over “holes” and near to transitions between reeds and rocky shoreline. On this particular day the fish were for the most part right up against the pencil reeds. Bob noted that this wasn’t all that uncommon and yet on some days they were in those areas where there are transitions (perhaps points of ambush) between reedy and rocky shoreline. Moving very slowly in these zones with spinners and the appropriate bait allowed fished to “home” in on our offerings.
One little trick I picked up on during this trip related to the spinners being used. These spinners were specifically tied for this lake. On my first visit to this lake I was out fished by my guide by at least 7 to 1. Little did I realize but the spinner rig required for this lake was not like the generic rigs I normally used on other lakes in the area. What was required by the lake was a short snell and “in-line” sinker and a hammered spinner blade. The short snell aided in helping to keep the rig from hanging up on every little obstruction present on the lakes bottom (eg. weeds, old growth and sticks from local beaver activity). The “in-line” sinker of this rig helped in so far as it would help keep the rig relatively weedless. I had tried a bottom bouncer but found that it would fowl regularly on the lake's significant weed growth (and remember we were fishing quite close to shore). Finally, and this was perhaps the most significant piece of the rig, the hammered spinner blade. It was at this lake that I fully realized that different types of spinner blades do have an impact on whether fish bite or not. I suspect that one impact that spinners have in this lake is that they produce vibrations that allow fish to “home” in on your bait. Regular blades, however, don’t seem to do as well as hammered blades in turbid waters. The multi-surfaced nature of a hammered blade reflects that much more light which in turn gives them an advantage over regular blades in turbid water. I soon would tie my own “lake-relevant” rigs and have many successful hours of angling on this odd little lake.
Bit by bit, as the day progressed and we caught numerous walleye in this turbid water world, I thought about my preconceived notions and how I was once again was going to have to re-write my book on walleye behaviour – Water clarity has a massive impact on where walleye will live and forage. Being exposed to this unique set of conditions and the impact it would have on how you could catch walleye helped me expand my tactical approach to ol’ marble eyes ….. and yup I did re-write my book a little on walleye behaviour…… a lesson in humility is not all that bad when you consider that I've now got another lake to go to in the dog days of summer!